Demolition leads to riot in Farato

By Yankuba Jallow and Hatab Nyang

Hundreds of youths in Farato Kombo South were engaged in a riot yesterday afternoon resulting to injuries and damage to properties. Several truckloads of the police intervention unit were brought in to quell the riot.

This came about some minutes after personnel of the police intervention unit escorted workers engaged by the Physical Planning Department to demolish structures upon receiving court order. The Structures that were demolished include houses and newly erected fences.

At exactly 1:45 pm a group of young men and teenagers residing in the disputed land chased the PIU officers who escorted the team of demolishers out of the land and they headed towards the Farato Highway which is about 600 metres or more from there. The Team went with a caterpillar which was burnt and the Vehicle of one Sarja Gibba who is one of those who are claiming ownership in the disputed land.

Angry youths ignited tires of vehicles from the entrance of the village to the end on the highway. The highway was under the control of the rioters while the police were out of sight for nearly two hours. They reappeared after reinforcement came to their aid.

Alagie Bah who was among those escorted to the demolition site said they were chased and they ran away alongside the PIU officers to save their lives because the rioters descended on them with a vigorous force. After the caterpillar and the vehicle were put into flames, the rioters took charge of the highway, stopping vehicles plying the Brikama/Serrekunda highway from passing.

Some men were arrested by the PIU team, three of them in the presence of this reporter. They were driven to Brikama Police Station. The Alkalo of Farato said she is not familiar with the issues relating to the disputed land and she cannot say anything related to the incident.

The youths who were engaged in the riot say they have been occupying the disputed land for more than a decade and have been paying tax and have Physical planning clearance certificates. They added that the disputed land is not a reserved land for the government, so they cannot tolerate few individuals to claim title over the land based on inheritance because they (the youths) have acquired the land legally.

Police PRO, Foday Conta, advised the occupants of the disputed land to vacate the area. He said there are personal injuries to some people but they are minor injuries. He described this as an unfortunate attack on individuals who were acting on court order.

An eye witness Omar Baldeh of Farato said there is a communication break down because the occupants of the lands were not notified.

Farato is in Kombo South whilst Bafuloto is in Kombo Central and the disputed land is between them. Judgment was entered against those who are now occupying the disputed land but the occupiers argue that most of them have dwelled there for more than a decade.

Many newly constructed fences and erected buildings were pulled down. This came about when the Court gave an order for them to vacate which according to the defendants was disobeyed.